Castlegate, Thirsk, North Yorkshire
A modest town centre church of the mid-nineteenth century, by a local architect, which has retained much of its original character. With the contemporary presbytery it contributes positively to the local conservation area.
The present church is the successor to the early eighteenth century family chapel of St Anne at Kilvington Hall, the seat of the Meynell family. A Mass centre was opened in Thirsk in 1839. Bishop Cornthwaite directed that the present church should be built and the priest transferred from Kilvington. Some furnishings and vessels from Kilvington Hall were also donated to the new church. The foundation stone was laid by the Bishop of Beverley on 26 August 1866 and the completed church opened by the Bishop of Hexham & Newcastle (in the unavoidable absence of the Bishop of Beverley) in May 1867 (The Tablet, 1 June 1867). A presbytery was built at the same time.
The account of the opening in The Tablet (itself drawn from that in the York Reporter and Richmond Chronicle) includes a detailed description of the church:
‘The church is built in the early English style o f architecture, and consists of nave (64 ft. by 25 ft.), and apsidal chancel(19 ft. by 17 ft.), with entrance porch at the north-west corner. A bell turret is carried up from the ground, and made to form a conspicuous feature in the centre o f the west gable. The materials are local bricks with stone facings, having bands of red and black bricks, and cornice of white moulded bricks. The bell turret, porch, and apex of the apsidal roof are each surmounted by iron finials, from McFarlane’s, Glasgow. The roof is open timbered, stained, and varnished, and the benches are of deal, uniform with the roof in design, and also varnished. The ceiling o f the chancel is formed into panels by moulded plaster ribs, and the floor is paved with Minton and Co.’s encaustic tiles. The gallery is at the west end, and has a perforated pannelled front. The sacristy is on the south side of the chancel, and is between and connected with the church and the presbytery. The altar, designed by the Rev. Dean Fryer, incumbent of the church, and executed in Painswick stone by Mr. Wilkins, of Amberley, Stroud, has been presented by members of the congregation. The front is in three panels, divided by columns of Devonshire marble, the columns surmounted by alabaster capitals. The canopy and pinnacle are also made of Painswick stone; and the tabernacle is an iron safe, gilded and ornamented in a very artistic manner. The carpet covering the altar steps is presented by Mrs. Froes, of Kilvington Hall. To the north of the altar stands a statue of the Virgin on a pedestal of Painswick stone, with marble columns. The Stations of the Cross, a series of pictures commemorating the Passion of our Saviour, are presented by Mr. John Wallis, of London, in memory of his father, who was formerly a resident at Thirsk. At the east end of the building is a beautiful stained-glass window, presented to the church by the late Mr. Swarbreck, of Thirsk, in memory of the late Mrs. Swarbreck. At the west end are also two stained-glass windows. The church is provided with a large church harmonium, by Christophe, of Paris. The building, exclusive of the gallery, will accommodate between 200 and 300 persons; and the entire cost of church and presbytery, including the fittings, will be about £1,500. The architect is Mr. W. A. Bourne, of Thirsk, and the contractors, Messrs. Wright and Son, of the same place’.
See detailed contemporary description, above. The church and presbytery are built of local red bricks with red and black brick banding and ornament. The body of the church is a single tall aisleless body, with a steep roof covered in Welsh slate with ornamental banding. The canted apse facing the street has two-light windows in each of its three sides with quatrefoils in the tracery and there are similar windows in the side walls of the nave. The west gable is bisected by a tall stepped buttress with an empty image niche at half height. The buttress is flanked at lower level by three small single windows each side and at upper level by a two-light quatrefoiled window. There is a small projecting northwest porch, now rendered.
The nave interior is very plain, with plastered walls, a modern boarded dado and a steep, boarded timber roof with alternate principals brought down onto chamfered wall posts. Timber west gallery, the front pierced with quatrefoils, now glazed below to create an entrance lobby. The glass in the windows is a mixture of clear quarries, grisaille and some original stained glass as described above and which Pevsner describes as ‘uncommonly sharply drawn and unmuddy’. The altar and reredos (now separated) are presumably those described above. The twentieth century wooden benches have the carved mouse motif of Mr Thompson of Kilburn.
Amended by AHP 16.01.2021
Architect: W. A. Bourne
Original Date: 1866
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed